Blood Analogy Aside, Is Pharrell's Political Punditry That Much Worse Than Anyone Else's?
Good news for the Clinton 2016 camp: musician/pundit Pharrell is completely confident she will be our next president. And while the analogies he uses are exotic, the rationale really isn't that different from a number of other political pundits.
A breath of good news for the Clinton 2016 camp: musician/pundit Pharrell is completely confident that Hillary will be our next president. And while the analogies he uses are … unusual, the rationale really isn't that different from a number of other political pundits.
Pharrell's prediction came in an interview with GQ, which is mostly focused on his music (and his newfound appreciation for large hats). But toward the end, interviewer Zach Baron brings up how much America has changed since Pharrell started making music. "[W]e didn't have a black president ten years ago," Baron says, to which Pharrell responds, "We're about to have a female president. Hillary's gonna win." Why?
Because America is not as politically separated as it seems.
Let me tell you why Hillary's going to win. Everywhere you go in this country, you have red and blue. You got the Democrats; you got the Republicans. You got the Bloods; you got the Crips. Everything is red and blue in this country. You know what else is red and blue? Blood. Blood is blue in your body until air hits it, and then it turns red. That means there's unity. There's gonna be unity.
Well, the blood thing isn't actually true. But Pharrell's broader point is that the strong distinctions between Democrats and Republicans are largely artificial. And that's ubiquitous in political punditry.
The red/blue theme, which came to prominence during the 2000 Bush-Gore race, is a frequent component of punditry. Here's The Washington Post from last November: "Most Americans live in Purple America, not Red or Blue America." "Purple America," from 2007 in The Nation. There are books and consulting firms predicated on the idea that America is less partisan than we usually think.
The broader idea, that there's a huge untapped middle of the country waiting for the right candidate, is a hallmark of the political centrism loved by pundits. Esquire had a massive data series on how purple, how centrist America truly is. Punditry! Barack Obama made his name on blurring that line. His 2004 DNC convention speech included the famous line: "The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too." (The news was not my eventual presidency will be marked by remarkable political divides, despite my hopeful rhetoric.) Pharrell is making the same argument.
Because women will support a woman.
You're a woman, and there's no way in the world you're going to vote for somebody that's going to try to tell you what to do with your body. When we are a country and we are a species that has had a Martian Rover traveling up and down the crevices of this planet looking for water and ice, okay, and we've had a space station that's been orbiting our planet for sixteen years—but we still got legislation trying to tell women what to do with their bodies? Hillary's gonna win.
The idea that members of any demographic group will necessarily support other members of that demographic group is a hoary one in American politics. That doesn't always mean that it's inaccurate. Campaigns often use surrogates to reach out to constituencies that they can't naturally persuade. The Romney campaign made an explicit play for women voters, with Ann Romney strolling onstage in 2012 to tell women that she loved them.
Pharrell's idea — shared by any number of pundits — is that Hillary will be able to make that appeal directly. In fact, it's such a standard bit of punditry that there's pundit value in making the opposite prediction.
Because culture and youth influence voting.
Pharrell, on older male voters:
They're all trying to learn how to do the Dougie. Please. While their daughters are all twerking. Trust me: Miley tells me all the time. Not saying that about Billy Ray, but I'm saying Miley tells me all the time: All those little girls, all those girls with their Republican daddies, they're twerkin' somewhere listening to Jay Z and Beyoncé and doin' the "Happy" dance. And that's black.
There are certainly people who are strict Republicans and who will oppose Clinton as they did Obama. But Pharrell points out that young people influence older people significantly, as does culture. The Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 were explicit in making exactly that appeal.
And other, non-Pharrell pundits agree with his take. "Young voters would be key in a Hillary Clinton presidential race," a CNN commentator said on Sunday. ThinkProgress wrote last year that Republicans are worried about the pop culture affection for Clinton. As for the actually black voters that Clinton will hope to hold, pundits have thoughts on them, too ("Hillary Clinton does not need to rebuild her standing among black voters").
To be clear: None of this is meant to suggest that Pharrell's assessments are actually correct. Just that they are basically good enough to land him a regular column at any number of political websites. You know, in case being a famous, wealthy pop star doesn't work out.